Tag Archives: machine

Memorex S-VHS Hi-Fi Stereo VCR – Model No. 16-705

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Look what I picked up at Goodwill today! An S-VHS VCR! I’ve never come across one of these “out in the wild” before! And for the low, low price of $5, no less! Goodwill is great about cheap VCRs, I’ve found some real winners there before. Today, they also had a Hi-Fi VHS VCR by GE from 1984 for the same price, but considering there was what looked like battery acid on the front as well as rust around where the tape loads, I didn’t even bother plugging that one in. Nevertheless, there’s a small part of me that still regrets not picking that one up anyway. But, I’ll survive; I bought a very high-end Panasonic Omnivision VCR from 1986 that works like a dream at the same Goodwill (also $5, if I recall correctly) last year, and since that’s not only my all-time favorite VCR “wild” find, but also my favorite VHS VCR period, well, in my mind there’s nowhere to go but down from there.

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Anyway, my newly-acquired Memorex S-VHS VCR. According to a bit of online research, this is apparently a “Model 35,” though all I see listed is the model number, 16-705. Looks like there was a door over the selectors on the front that is now missing, and there’s no date on it, but judging by the plastic casing, I’m guessing early-to-mid 1990’s, possibly late-1990’s (when did they stop making S-VHS units?). As a rule of thumb, I don’t like buying VCRs that new. By the 90’s, many VCRs were being made more on the cheap than they were in 80’s. So much so that with some of them, if they died, it was almost easier just buying a whole new one rather than having the old one repaired. That’s my general perception, though one of the best VCRs I ever bought (new) was a high-end VHS/DVD combo unit by Sony in 2005 that still creams anything you can buy new nowadays. So yeah, there were definite exceptions to my little rule. I’m guessing that because this is an S-VHS unit, it most likely cost more than your average VHS VCR back then (I mean, how could it not?), but I doubt this particular unit was any better than the models introduced in the U.S. in the late-1980’s. Don’t quote me on that, though.

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I was under the impression that S-VHS was just the VHS equivalent of the Super Betamax; that is, you could use regular VHS tapes to record programs in a higher quality than a normal VHS VCR. But, it seems that’s not quite the case. You needed specific S-VHS cassettes to take advantage of the improved recording quality. According to Wikipedia, you could use a regular VHS tape, and the recording would look a bit better, but it would also become unwatchable after several months. Keep in mind that I have no first-hand experience in using an S-VHS VCR, I can only go by what I’ve read, so if I’ve got something a little wrong, go easy on me.

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Alas, this unit may not work. Whatever tape you put in, the machine spits right back out, thankfully without eating it. Now, this may be because I don’t have any S-VHS tapes, only normal VHS cassettes, and the VCR recognizes that (however, from how I understand it, the machine should be able to *play* regular VHS tapes). Since there were differences, albeit apparently small differences, between the builds of the two cassettes, this makes sense. However, upon plugging the VCR in, it makes an audible ‘whining’ noise, which changes pitch slightly when “power” is pressed. I have no idea if this is normal for these VCRs or not. I knew about the machine spitting the tape out before I bought it (of course I plugged the thing in a grabbed a random tape lying about to test), and I actually put it back down, but my love of old VCRs got the better of me, and (obviously) I ended up buying it. Like I said, I’ve never come across one of these before, and cheap casing or not, I do actually like the look of the thing.

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If this was a VCR that took regular VHS tapes but recorded in higher quality, I would have considered having it repaired and regularly using it (it has S-Video inputs! I could hook this up to my usual “recording” TV if I wanted!), but as it stands, it’s just another cool addition to my ever-growing VCR collection.

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Vintage Sears Stereo Eight Track AM/FM Clock Radio

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Ah, eight track players. I do loves ’em. This is a Sears AM/FM stereo eight track clock radio, model # 317.23450 050. I don’t have a year, but the the sticker says the manufacturing date was “A 0371G”. I don’t know what that means, but just by the looks of this thing, how can it not be from the 1970’s?

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In addition to state-of-the-art eight track tape playing capabilites, this cutting-edge piece of technology is also a clock radio. Not only can you easily tell what time it is at any given moment, but you can also listen to your favorite AM or FM radio stations! In stereo, no less!

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Perhaps against all odds, this thing not only still works, but it sounds pretty good. It may not be the most dynamic form of stereo you’ve ever heard, but really, not bad all things considered. You can balance between the right and left channels, as well as the bass and treble. Revolutionary!

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Part of this particular machine’s appeal, at least to me, is the fact that it vaguely resembles an Atari 2600. I have no idea if it predates the 2600 or not, but at any rate, the design of this beast is beautifully retro. Then again, maybe my love of fake woodgrain is clouding my judgement.

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‘Course, it all comes down to whether the eight track player works or not. This is actually the second one I’ve owned. The first, while ostensibly high-endier (?), had something wrong with it that played every tape at a too-fast speed (you haven’t heard Jim Croce until you’ve heard him as a chipmunk). Believe it or not, though, this player runs really nicely. That Jerry Lee Lewis tape, despite being an ancient Pickwick budget compilation, sounded pretty decent. The only fault I saw (er, heard) was that while the eight track’s channels 1, 2, and 4 sounded fine, when playing channel 3, I could hear some of channel 2 ‘bleeding’ into the background. Since I’m by no means an expert on eight tracks, I have no idea if this is a fault on the part of the player or the tape.

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On the left, you can see you were able to hook this up to whatever the hell it was supposed to be hooked up to. On the right, a list of all the crap this thing can do. Revolutionary!

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Yeah, it’s obsolete as all get out, but I dig this ancient piece of technology. I’m seriously tempted to plug this thing in by my bed, set the clock & alarm, and fall asleep to the sweet, sweet sounds of…something 1970’s, I guess.

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Or, perhaps, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, as suggested by Batman and The Noid, apparently.

RCA VMT395 & General Electric 9-7675 VHS VCRs

Up till now, I’ve focused on cool things I’ve found on old videotapes. Now it’s time to look a bit on the old electronics side. I must apologize in advance if my pictures aren’t the greatest. For some reason, it’s a total pain-in-the-ass to get a decent VCR pic.

One of my hobbies that seems strange to some people is that I love collecting old VCRs. I think the fact I’ve gone through so many of them over the years has given me a weird affinity for them. Everytime I’m at a thrift store or the like and come across a unit that appeals to me and is a decent price, I pretty much have to buy it. Case in point: The two VCRs we’ll look at now.

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This first one I picked up several weeks ago for $10. Ten bucks is just a bit more than I like to pay for an untested unit, but I have no regrets. It’s not like it was a ton of money. Besides, I figured, even if it didn’t work, I’d rather have it in my hands than in a landfill somewhere,

It’s an RCA VMT395 HQ VHS VCR. Sucker even has Dolby stereo with the capability for noise reduction. It came with the original remote, but the thing was filthy enough that I could never in good conscience use it, even after a cleaning. There’s no date anywhere on the machine, but a bit of research indicates that it comes from 1986 or somewhere around that time-frame.

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Look at that, audio levels. When’s the last time VCRs came with that?  Given that and the number of functions this fella has leads me to believe that this may have been a relatively high-end unit for the time. I found a mega high-end unit for $5 a few months back (and which has become my all-time favorite VCR find for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that it performs beautifully and the number of functions it features is staggering), and while this RCA doesn’t feature as many functions as that one, it still does waaaay more than the cheapo VCRs being sold nowadays.

At the store where I found it, I grabbed a random VHS tape (one ostensibly used for testing) and tried out everything I could without hooking the unit up, and it seemed to play, rewind, fast forward, eject, etc. without issue. When I got it home, it did indeed work, although something in the store I didn’t notice was that while it rewound and such, it only did so with a fair bit of internal grinding.

When I tried the machine out again last week, it was no longer working properly, however. It didn’t eat any tapes, but it won’t actually play them, either. Oh well, still a pretty cool VCR.

This next machine I actually picked up yesterday, and I like it even more than the RCA.

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It’s a General Electric 9-7675 3-Head HQ VHS VCR from 1987, also with Dolby stereo. I scored this sucker for $5, which is really my preferred amount to pay for untested VCRs. Well, I did test another random tape in it (should it have eaten the tape, I would have been out of one whole dollar), and this one seemed to work flawlessly. That doesn’t mean anything until you get it home and actually hook it up, of course.

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Unlike the RCA, this one works like a champ. Really, I didn’t have any problems in any way. I didn’t try recording anything, but since I never buy old VCRs to record, that doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.

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This one doesn’t seem to be as relatively high-end as the RCA, though it still does more than the bare-minimum machines sold within the last several years. The great thing about many (but not all) VCRs manufactured in the late-70’s, throughout the 1980’s, and even into the early-90’s is that they were built to last. I’ve had fairly good luck finding working units, and even units that don’t work are often worth having repaired (should I feel the need to do so).

By the mid-90’s or so, these things were being manufactured so cheaply that you were almost better off junking a dead machine and just buying a whole new one. My personal indicator of a cheaply made VCR? Plastic casing. I almost always pass those up. There have been exceptions, but that’s my personal rule of thumb.

This GE though? Nice solid metal casing, the way it should be. I think my biggest surprise regarding this unit (besides the fact that it works so incredibly well) is actually that it’s a GE, which is a manufacturer I’ve never really had any problems, but not one I’ve ever paid much attention to as far as VCRs go. Zenith, RCA, Panasonic, Sony, sure, but GE for some reason I always sort of associated with lower-end/cheap models.

Maybe that was unfair, or maybe I just lucked out and found a well-maintained machine. I couldn’t say one way or the other. All I know is that the GE was $5 well, well spent.